Travel Destinations

Monday, June 9, 2014

Leave a Slot in Your Schedule for Copenhagen Palaces and Castles

The Knights' Hall, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark
One of three silver lions guarding the coronation chairs in The Knights' Hall of Rosenborg Castle.
Christiansborg Slot, Amalienborg Slot, and Rosenborg Slot are all located in Copenhagen’s historic center.  But what is a slot, you might ask.  Has Copenhagen turned into a gambler’s destination?  Slot is actually the Danish word for castle or palace, and Denmark is littered with slots, including three in Copenhagen which have all housed the royal family at some point in history.  

Christiansborg Palace

Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark
Christiansborg Palace, the location of the Royal Reception Rooms.
Christiansborg Palace is the largest palace complex of the three and my favorite.  Christiansborg Palace is located on a small island in the historic center surrounded by a canal.  Within the palace walls can be found multiple points of interest for travelers including the reception rooms, ruins, royal stables, palace chapel, theatre museum, and parliament.  While Christiansborg Palace is no longer a royal residence, it is now home to Denmark’s Parliament, Prime Minister, and Supreme Court and is still used for royal purposes.

Christiansborg Palace was first the location of Copenhagen Castle built between 1369 and 1387.  The castle was the home of Denmark royalty for centuries and was rebuilt many times in different styles.  As it aged, visitors from other countries wrote about the castle in not very complimentary terms.  The castle was demolished in 1731 by King Christian VI in order to build a new palace, the first Christiansborg Palace.  The ruins of the original castle can still be visited today underneath the present palace. 

Copenhagen Castle Ruins, Christiansborg Palace, Denmark
The ruins of Copenhagen Castle can be visited underneath Christiansborg Palace.
The first Christiansborg Palace was built between 1733 and 1745.  The royal family once again inhabited the palace and commissioned the creation of the court theatre above the royal stables in 1766.   The palace was ruined by fire in 1794 and only the riding ground complex was saved, including the theatre.  The theatre continued to hold productions until 1881, when the Vienna theatre fire resulted in the closure of all wooden theatres in Europe.  While the entire inventory of the theatre was sold, the theatre was resurrected in the 1900s and now serves as a museum and hosts performances and concerts.

Christiansborg Palace Theatre Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark
Backstage in the Christiansborg Palace Theatre Museum.
After the 1794 fire, the building of the second Christiansborg Palace began in 1803.  The palace was completed in 1828, but King Frederik VI decided to remain in what was supposed to be the temporary residence, Amalienborg Palace.  While King Frederik VII resided in Christiansborg Palace between 1852 and 1863, for the most part Christiansborg Palace was no longer a residence and began housing other institutions including the Supreme Court.  The third permutation of Christiansborg Palace began in 1907 and the Royal Reception Rooms opened in 1928.  These reception rooms are still used today and were my favorite part of our tour of Christiansborg Palace.

Christiansborg Palace Library, Copenhagen, Denmark
The library, one of the reception rooms of Christiansborg Palace.
While it is possible to tour the reception rooms, as well as most other parts of Christiansborg Palace, on a self-guided tour, I highly recommend joining the guided tour of the reception rooms.  At the time of our visit, English tours occurred at 3:00 p.m.  Our guide was entertaining, droll, and informative as he guided us through the reception rooms used by Danish royalty.

We visited the throne room containing thrones that are never used.  While this room is used by Queen Margrethe II and Prince Consort Henrik, when they are receiving guests in this room the thrones are screened off from view as the royal family prefers to be perceived as being of the people.  Our guide pointed out a circle in the floor pattern in the middle of the room where the Queen and Prince Consort stand as well as a line which is cleverly incorporated into the pattern which guests use as a guide to walk backwards away as one does not turn their back on the Queen. 

Christiansborg Palace Throne Room, Copenhagen, Denmark
The thrones in Christiansborg Palace's Throne Room are never actually used.
Little royal family stories and tidbits were shared.  A painting of the queen’s father, King Frederik IX, was highlighted.  In the painting, the King was a toddler in a dress.  Apparently the King always made sure the door was closed to the room with the painting, as he was a manly man with tattoos acquired during his naval service and he did not like to be associated with the painting of him in a dress.

King Frederik IX Painting, Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark
The prequel to embarrassing childhood photos.  The macho King Frederik IX in a dress as a child.
Decorating touches designed by the Queen can be seen in many of the rooms.  Queen Margrethe designed some of the rugs, and they are evidence of her taste and love of color.  The Great Hall containing the Queen’s tapestries is a colorful sight not to be missed.  The room is an explosion of color with 17 tapestries from les Gobelins of Paris which were ordered by the Danish business community in honor of the Queen’s 50th birthday.  The colorful tapestries depict the history of Denmark and the world.  The tapestries were completed and hung in the restored Great Hall in 2000 at the time of the Queen’s 60th birthday.

Queen Margrethe's Tapestries, Great Hall, Christiansborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark
The Queen's colorful tapestries deck the walls of Christiansborg Palace's Great Hall.

Amalienborg Palace

Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark
Amalienborg Palace, the current royal residence, patrolled by the Danish Royal Guard.
Amalienborg Palace was built in the 1750s and is actually a group of four buildings surrounding a square.  While the four palaces were originally built for nobility, they became the royal residence after the fire at Christiansborg Palace in 1794.  Queen Margrethe and the Prince Consort live in one of the four buildings today, and the Crown Prince and his wife and children live across the way.

Frederik IX's Pipe Collection, Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark
King Frederik IX's pipe collection displayed in his study.
While visitors cannot tour the residence of the Queen, they can tour one of the four wings of Amalienborg Palace which contains the royal apartments of four kings of the House of Glucksborg who ruled from 1863 through 1972 and highlights the royal family’s history.  The royal apartments include rooms such as the study and drawing room of Christian IX and Queen Louise.  Queen Louise was the great-great-grandmother of the current Queen and through marriage allowed Prince Christian IX to ascend the throne.  She ensured their six children married advantageously and Queen Louise and King Christian IX became known as Europe’s Parents-In-Law.  Four of their children ascended the thrones of Denmark, Greece, England, and Russia.

Queen Louise's Salon, Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark
Queen Louise's private salon.
I found the history of Frederik VIII to be particularly fascinating.  He was only on the throne for six years, 1906 through 1912, and was consistently cut off from influence by his father, Christian IX.  Christian IX was conservative while Frederik VIII was a reformist and democratic.  When Frederik VIII finally did ascend the throne, he placed an emphasis on seeing eye-to-eye with the public, was informal in his behavior, and was almost always clothed as a civilian.

Rosenborg Castle

Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark
Rosenborg Castle and the Rosenborg Gardens.
Rosenborg Castle was built as a summer residence by King Christian IV, also known as the Builder King because he built most of Copenhagen, in the early 1600s.  Rosenborg Castle is also where he chose to die.  The castle has been open to the public since 1838 and contains the Danish crown jewels and other royal pieces. 

Christian VI's Room, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark
Christian VI's room with furnishings from the 18th century.
While Christiansborg Slot and Amalienborg Slot are bright palaces, Rosenborg Slot is more of a castle with rooms filled with big furniture and tapestries.  Rosenborg Castle contains ornate furnishings and treasures, including a unique collection of glass and porcelain.  The crown jewels are located in the Treasury, which is in the basement of the castle.

Christian IV's Crown, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark
The intricate crown of the Builder King Christian IV, which was made in 1596.
The Rosenborg Gardens are spacious, green, crossed with pathways, and dotted with statues.  One of Copenhagen’s most famous statues, a statue of Hans Christian Andersen, is found here.

Hans Christian Andersen, Rosenborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark
Denmark's favorite celebrity, Hans Christian Andersen.
Christiansborg Palace is a large complex with multiple museums and can take the better part of an afternoon to thoroughly explore.  Be sure to visit Christiansborg Palace’s website for current opening dates and times.  Amalienborg Palace is a quick visit as there are only a handful of rooms open to the public.  Rosenborg Castle requires less than two hours to tour the rooms and view the crown jewels.  Visit the Amalienborg Palace website and Rosenborg Castle website for up to date information on opening dates and times.  All three are free with the Copenhagen Card.

Travel the World: Copenhagen Denmark is full of castles.

Katherine Belarmino and Romeo Belarmino are the authors of Travel the World, a travel blog for the everyday working stiff. They work full-time in non-travel related jobs, but take every opportunity they can to travel the world during their limited vacation time.